What are luxury prisons?
Short of the death penalty, a spell in prison is the most severe form of punishment most societies can impose on a wrongdoer but what if you were serving your time in one of the world’s most luxurious prisons?
As Billionaires has previously shown, there are some dangerous prisons where doing time is tantamount to playing roulette with your life, your sanity, or both. But for some, a trip to the slammer can be viewed more as a vacation than a serious hardship – here are some of the most notorious.
Remember that scene in The Wolf of Wall Street where Machiavellian fraudster Jordan Belfort finds prison is more like an extended stay in a country club? Well, that’s more or less a real thing.
The management of prisons varies wildly between countries, but suffice to say money can often play a pivotal role in what your sentence looks like in practice. In highly privatised economies such as the US, the danger of wealth and status exempting guilty parties from proper hard time – or even being sent down at all – is arguably more pronounced. Furthermore, the US is widely recognised as having the highest proportion of incarcerated citizens relative to population size, and its prisons are often run as business ventures.
In recent decades, the rise of ‘pay-to-stay’ prison cells in states like California have proven there’s one rule for the rich and another for the poor when it comes to the dispensation of justice. For offenders who can afford to shell out up to $155 a night, short sentences on lesser charges can be served in suburban holding rooms or even special ‘quiet zones’ attached to county jails that place prisoners in a separate facility away from the perils of the general population. A bit like taking a limo through a rough part of town.
While not exactly opulent, in some cases the marketing for this special accommodation reads more like that of a five-star hotel than a lock-up, boasting of clean, secure and safe facilities and a range of amenities. In some there is even the option to bring your own food in from the outside world (prison break scenario, anyone?)
If this sounds like progress to you, it’s worth bearing in mind there’s a definite dark side to the ‘money talks’ reality of US justice. After all, it isn’t just Hollywood crooks guilty of financial crimes whose cashflow provides a cushion when convicted. In April 2014 Robert H Richards IV, heir to the DuPont family fortune, was found guilty of raping his three year-old daughter. Despite the standard sentence for such a sickening act being 15 years, Richards got his sentence suspended over the judge’s concerns he would not “fare well” in prison. The case caused an outcry in the States, with some commentators arguing it represents the reality of deep pockets providing impunity for truly horrendous offences.